Call me odd if you will, but I generally prefer things that are traditional, simple, functional, well-made, and elegant. Hand tools exhibiting these qualities are particularly important to me, and they need not be antiques to embody the craftsmanship often claimed to be associated with more traditional tools. Veritas hand planes, and certain Estwing hammers (those with the shellacked leather grips), are two random examples of what I might call modern-traditional tools.
Here are three such tools I particularly like, and tend to keep in my carpentry/ woodworking tote almost all the time, whether I anticipate needing them or not (in fact, I use these particular tools only once in a great while):
The first is an all-brass bevel gauge. You’d typically use this to verify the degree of bevel on some cutting edge; for example, a chisel blade. It was hand made by a gentleman named Richard Kell over in the UK. Richard makes a lot of neat things in his workshop, ranging from relatively simple to very complex (like his sundials). He also has an interesting blog which I’ve listed in a blog roll called Lost Art Masters that features several notables, including anarchist woodworker and author, Christopher Schwarz.
The next tool is a solid brass dovetail marker, also made by Richard Kell. You’d use a marker like this for laying out precise dovetail joints in woodworking or traditional cabinet making. One side facilitates scribing a 1:5 ratio dovetail, the other a 1:8. Plus, the slot enables it to be used as a small try square.
The third, a sliding T-bevel with a rosewood and brass handle, completes my small collection. T-bevels are used primarily to transfer angles, but can also be used with a protractor to measure them. This particular T-bevel is made by Crown Tools of Sheffield, England, and was given to me by my mother as a birthday present, about eight years ago.
It resembles the old rosewood and brass T-bevels you’ll often see listed by antique tool sellers. A few other manufacturers (Veritas, in particular, comes to mind) make nice, modern T-bevels of several different sizes that likewise are reminiscent of the older tools.
Last summer, I published “Nouveau Heirloom Gimlet“, an article about combining a pin vise and leather bit wallet into a simple and easily carried hand-tool replacement for a power drill when making small pilot holes for fasteners. This is one invention that has provided me considerable use and convenience, and also embodies my basic thinking and philosophy toward what I often refer to as modern-traditional tools.